Peres was a champion of economic and cultural exchange between Israelis and Palestinians. He also founded the Peres Center for Peace in 1996 to promote coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Photo: AP
Former Israeli president and prime minister, Shimon Peres, Nobel prize-winner who pushed his country toward peace, died early Wednesday. He was 93.
An officials that Peres had died at a Tel Aviv hospital two weeks after suffering a stroke. Peres' family was expected to make a statement later in the day.
Peres' family members had been summoned to Sheba Medical Center to say their goodbyes as the elder statesman's condition deteriorated throughout the day Tuesday.
In an unprecedented seven-decade political career, Peres filled almost every position in Israeli public life and was credited with leading the country through some of its most defining moments, from creating its nuclear arsenal in the 1950s, to disentangling its troops from Lebanon and rescuing its economy from triple-digit inflation in the 1980s, to guiding a skeptical nation into peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.
Born Shimon Perski in 1923 in a Polish town now known as Valozhyn in Belarus, Peres immigrated to Palestine in 1934 with his family. He joined the Haganah Jewish underground in 1947. He was a protégé of David Ben-Gurion, who later became Israel's first prime minister and named Peres at age 24 to head Israel's navy.
At 29, he was the youngest person to serve as director of Israel's Defense Ministry, and is credited with arming Israel's military almost from scratch. Yet throughout his political career, he suffered from the fact that he never wore an army uniform or fought in a war.
As deputy defense minister from 1959 to 1965 of a country surrounded by enemies sworn to destroy it, Peres expanded Israel's state-owned weapons industry.
In a statement from the White House, President Obama described Peres as a friend and a leader who changed the course of history.
"Shimon was the essence of Israel itself the courage of Israel’s fight for independence, the optimism he shared with his wife Sonya as they helped make the desert bloom, and the perseverance that led him to serve his nation in virtually every position in government across the entire life of the State of Israel," Obama said in the statement.